What Are skills?

Why are skills important for employment?

Before we talk about the skills employers are looking for, the skills you have, and the skills you might wish to develop, let’s start by talking about what we mean by the term “skill”.

According to Employment and Social Development Canada’s Skills and Competencies Taxonomy, a skill is a capacity that you have developed – or may be able to develop – to be effective in a role, a function, a task, or a job. So, a skill is not something you’re born with – it’s something you cultivate. For example: since you are taking this module, we know that somewhere along the way in your life, you’ve developed some computer skills.

There are many different types of skills, and many ways to categorize them. In the world of work, one approach is to think about them as either occupation-specific skills – ones that apply specifically to your line of work – or as general employability skills, or “transferable skills” – skills that can be developed in one area, but also “transferred to” or used in another area.

Think about it – a person seeking work as a dental assistant will definitely need certain skills that a person seeking a job in social work will not, and vice versa. At the same time, they’ll both likely need certain skills that are not just specific to the job they do, but that are helpful and valued in many different workplaces, like communicating effectively with others.

Portfolio Reflection #1 – Specific or Transferable?

Workplaces today are dealing with change at a pace that is faster than ever. Research shows that employers are looking for people who can bring to the workplace the skills needed to address not just the problems not just of today, but those of the future.[1][2][3]

When you understand what skills employers are looking for, you can better communicate your talents to employers, and signal to them that you can meet their needs and bring real value to their workplace. This is why learning about the skills you have, along with the skills employers are looking for, is so important for your career development.

What are the most important skills for employability today?

If you were conducting your own research of what skills today’s employers say are the most important for a successful career, you might be surprised to see how many organizations are talking about this, and how many approaches there are to identifying those skills. So, we’ve taken the best, most current information out there to arrive at a skills framework that you can use to see what skills employers are looking for, to identify and assess your own skills, and to determine which skills you might think about targeting for further development.

In just the past 10 years, technological advances alone have transformed business practices and the way people work. The workforce of tomorrow is expected to include more technology, automation, and use of artificial intelligence; a stronger focus on privacy and security, human values, and mental health; along with more flexible work, diversity and inclusion.[4]

All organizations – from workplaces, to community groups, to project teams – face change. In a world where the pace of changing is growing, being able to anticipate and respond well to the problems that arise from change is important.  

Portfolio Reflection #2 – Organizational Challenges


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  1. Mercer. (2019). Global talent trends 2019: Connectivity in the human age. https://www.mercer.ca/content/dam/mercer/attachments/north-america/canada/ca-2019-global-talent-trends-study-report.pdf
  2. Pretti, T. J., Etmanski, B., and Drewery, D. W. (2021). Development and validation of a future ready talent framework. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 22(3), 369-383.
  3. World Economic Forum.(2018). The future of jobs report 2018. https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2018
  4. Amador de San José, C. (13-Dec-2019). Future of Work: 20 Ways Work will Change in 2020. https://allwork.space/2019/12/future-of-work-20-ways-work-will-change-in-2020/


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